We like to think that, for the most part, who we are is based on life experience, hard knocks and good old-fashioned attitude. Sure, genetics plays a part, but ultimately it's your own choices that matter -- you're not "destined" to be anything.
But science, as it usually does, has some surprising and kind of scary things to tell us. Apparently, no matter what kind of life you lead, scientists can still figure out who you'll be at 30 based on who you were as a toddler. Studies show ...
If a 4-Year-Old Is Patient, He or She Will Be a Successful Adult
In the 1960s, a Stanford psychologist basically tortured 653 4- to 6-year-old kids by putting candy in front of them and telling them not to eat it. In the process, he may have unlocked the entire secret to a successful life.
The experiment went like this: The children were placed in front of a plate of treats like marshmallows and Oreos and told that they had a choice -- they could either choose one treat right away, or get two treats later. All they had to do to double their treats was sit alone with the candy for 15 minutes while the researcher left the room. It was testing their ability to delay gratification.
"Candy now always beats candy later."
Naturally, most of the kids at least attempted to wait, but when left alone, they began sweating and seizing like heroin addicts. Most of them cracked and went on a sugar-devouring rampage. Only about 30 percent were able to hang in there for the whole 15 minutes. And those kids wound up being more successful in life.
They found this out with a follow-up study on those same kids, and learned that the impatient children were more likely to be stressed, found it harder to maintain friendships and had lower SAT scores. The SAT scores of the kids who delayed gratification for the full 15 minutes were, on average, 210 points higher, and their parents described them as "significantly more competent." Though at this stage, it could still theoretically be chalked up to the brain-destroying power of marshmallow overconsumption.
"I'm about to get ten kinds of stupid all up in this mofo."
Then, in their 30s, the patient kids were living Leave It to Beaver-like lives of happiness and success, and the impatient kids were more likely to be fat, unhappy drug addicts. So the researchers decided to scan their subjects' brains to see what was going on up there. Apparently, the patient subjects had a lot of prefrontal cortex activity, meaning they had greater control over social behavior and planning. The scans of the impatient kids showed more activity in the ventral striatum, the portion of the brain commonly linked with addiction.